Nathalie is the AMAZING woman behind the Twitter account @BKindToOthers. Over the past few months, we’ve exchanged a number of emails and through these interactions, I have gained so much respect and admiration for what she has gone through as a child and the outstanding work she is now involved in. In regards to this post and Nathalie’s story, I was to note that Nathalie has sent me SUCH great information on her background and what she is up to these days. I know it can be hard to read super long posts, so I thought it might be a good idea to divide Nathalie’s story into parts. So, this is Part 1. Please read, share, and let her know if you’ve been through similar adversities. Feel free to contact her on Twitter or leave her a comment in the Comment’s section below.
My name is Nathalie, I am 22 years old, I live in Brazil, and I am one of the founders of a group against bullying called “Give your hand”(‘Dê a sua mão’ in Portuguese). This group was created 2 years ago by ME, my best friend Anna(An), my boyfriend Michael, and Michael’s aunt Elisa(Lis), who is a psychiatrist and the one who make this group real.
I’ve always been a tomboy. I love to skate and play basketball, and structurally, I’m think I’m pretty big. When I was in the sixth grade, I had to change schools and because of the move, I lost all my friends. I went through a really tough time and as a result, suffered immensely. On my third day in the new school I was in a gym class that I loved. I saw these girls jumping rope and I went to them and ask if I could play too. One of the girls said, “Of course you can!” So, I started jumping and the same girl who was holding the rope made it so I purposely fell straight to the floor. They started laughing and the girl screamed, “The whale fell!” I didn’t really get the joke because she had been the first person in my life to allude to the fact that I was fat. Instead of taking it as a personal attack against my weight, I was mad about falling and started arguing with the girl. Well, arguing with that girl just made matters worse because for weeks after, the girl and her friends followed me. Other people in school were also afraid of these mean girls, so they didn’t want to be my friend. As the new girl, I had no friends. The girls beat me up and called me fat, and one time, even tried to push me down the stairs. I had almost fallen down, but instead a girl named Ann caught me. That was the day I met my best friend. Ann understood what I was going through because she had been bullied and tormented by tons of kids at school for being openly gay. Even though we were picked on for different things, we were able to stick together.
For me, the worst part of the bullying was the humiliation. One time, when the teacher called my name, the mean girl screamed “FAT” and everyone laughed. The teacher didn’t do anything. Another time, they dried their hands on my shirt in front of everybody and nobody said or did anything. I became very depressed. I stopped playing basketball and instead just stayed at home and watched TV. At the time, my parents were also going through a very difficult time, so after working all day and coming home tired, they never realized how depressed I actually was. This dark period went on for about two years.
A few years later at a family reunion, many people made a point to comment on the weight I gained. I heard them saying to my mom that I was fat and that she needed to do something about it. My mom just ignored because I wasn’t overweight, I had just gained some weight. However, listening to my own family say I looked fat was the end for me. At that moment, I decided that I would be thin, whatever the cost, I would be thin and nobody would ever call me fat again.
This was when my life fell apart once for all. I barely ate anything at all. I drank plenty of water, but didn’t eat. The pain of hunger was unbearable, but the starvation didn’t hurt so much. I slept a lot to not feel the hunger and by doing this, I was able to continue to lose weight. I also excessively exercised whenever I was awake, which was very difficult because how weak I was due to malnutrition and starvation. One day, I went to a birthday party and because I had been starving myself, I got to the party and ate a large amount. I was so ashamed at myself that as soon as I got home, I threw up everything. Still not satisfied, I went to the pharmacy and bought a box of laxatives, took as many as I could, and spent the remainder of the day doing continuous exercises. No matter how much I did to try to make myself feel less guilty, I still hated myself. As time went on and I continued those behaviors, I grew more frustrated with myself to the point that I started cutting. By cutting myself, I felt like I was in the moment and it made me forget, for a split second, how much emotional pain I was feeling from being depressed, isolating myself, starving myself, and feeling guilty. I guess cutting made me aware that my cut hurt and the hunger didn’t anymore.
Unfortunately, this grew into another bad habit I was using to try and make myself feel better. So, when the pain of hungry was terrible I cut a part of my body or hurt myself somehow. I know it sounds awful, but all I could hear were those girls and my family, calling me fat and everybody else making fun of me. I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself and how harmful I was being because in my head, I needed be thin so that nobody else would laugh at me again.
From the time I was thirteen until I was sixteen, this was basically my life. I spent my time feeling depressed, isolating myself, starving, and self-harming. Sometimes I would only eat something so I wouldn’t collapse. I weighed two times less what I should have for my height. Sometime during my sixteenth year, I was walking down the stairs of my school when out of nowhere, my leg broke. I hadn’t fallen, I just simply stepped and broke my leg. I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with an eating disorder and after a number of tests, found out I was also about to have massive organ failure, not to mention, I had completely destroyed my bones from not feeding myself properly. My parents, of course, came to the hospital and they didn’t know what to do since they hadn’t really realized what was going on. My best friend Ann was really the only one who really knew and the more she expressed concern, the more I got mad at her and pushed her away. Because Ann didn’t want to lose me as a friend, she stopped pressuring me about it. When I was in the hospital, Ann visited and it was at this moment when my mindset started to change. Ann came in and sat beside me. She grabbed my shoulders, looked at me in the eyes and said, “This has to stop here and now. You’re a beautiful girl that is killing yourself because of some idiots that don’t even love themselves. You have a whole life to live and you will not please everyone, and you do not need to. What you need to do is survive, to be somebody in life, to ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ (is a Gandhi phrase that we love), you are the way you are and you must accept it, regardless of whether other people like it or now. You have a second chance now and it’s your choice, you can live or you can die the choice is yours”. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this. So after a VERY long process, I started going through recovery. I began seeing a therapist and nutritionists and read a ton of books. One that was particularly helpful was Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi. Now, six years later, I know that I’m still in the healing process and I still need to take care of myself. Sometimes though, if I’m being honest, I still find myself restricting and depriving myself from something that is very caloric – I’ll just eat something that is lower in calories instead. I still care about my weight, but I try to take care of myself and be a healthy weight. This goal has become one that is very important to me. I can proudly say that I have managed to stay healthy enough to donate blood and bone marrow without any problems – two things that are very important to me.
So that’s my experience with bullying, eating disorders, and self-harm…
For the people who are reading this, please, if you know someone with an eating disorder or know of someone going through a really tough time, please try your best to get them help. While it can be hard to convince someone that they need help, what people with eating disorders don’t always realize is that they’re slowly killing themselves. When you have an eating disorder, you’re kind of blind to everything else going on in the world. The hunger, the manipulation, and the lifestyle truly consume you. For those of you who might have an eating disorder, please don’t ignore it. Please get help. I know that you want to be thin and I know that you think you’ll get fat, but honestly, I can tell you that this disorder is not worth your health or your life. Get help.
Going back to how my story began, we really need to stop bullying. I’ve seen first hand what bullying can do to people and how much words CAN and DO hurt. Just give your words some thought first before you try to be funny or witty or make other people laugh on behalf of someone else.
Thank you everyone for the attention and time to read this and especially, thank you to Jessica for giving me the opportunity to talk about my life!